Alright... now for the trip report to end all trip reports. On our trip to the west coast we had ridden some awesome coasters and seen some awesome things but on our final day we wanted to end with an amazing thrilling bang. We're talking 379 foot tall awesomeness here. Get ready, it's about to be poppin'
We had a really short weekend in Northern California and we had managed to cram in some San Francisco fun, a baseball game and two major theme parks. On our final day I considered doing Santa Cruz but honestly, we were in San Francisco and we wanted to do some San Francisco area things. This one is going to be brief-ish since I sort of feel like I'm going to lose some people here.
When I visited Northern California back in 2002 as a kid I remember stopping at Muir Woods. Brit didn't even know it was a thing, but since she's quite the tree-hugger I quietly reserved a parking spot (parking reservations are absolutely required now) and figured I had to take her there on our last day.
Muir Woods is a serene and amazing forest that feels like it's in the middle of nowhere but in reality is located just a short drive from the Golden Gate and downtown San Francisco. We had actually stayed in Vallejo the night before so we had about an hour and a half drive in the morning in rush hour traffic on the way to the woods which was sort of odd. A few minutes before you arrive you're convinced that your GPS is playing a trick on you, but you make a quick turn up a small mountain road, down into a quiet valley, entirely lose all cell service and feel as if (in the course of 10 minutes or so) you've entered a different world.
Muir Woods has a pretty well traveled boardwalk, as well as a few hiking trails that shoot off from it. You can really spend anywhere between 2 hours and a full day depending on how much you're into hiking. We ended up spending about 2 to 2 1/2 hours which is probably sufficient for most people.
Muir Woods is a pretty amazing place. The unique climate of the area makes for a really unique ecosystem where the trees reach amazing heights to take advantage of the water provided by the frequent fog cover. Most of America's redwoods forests have been lost due to logging and Muir Woods almost suffered a similar fate with the valley being dammed and flooded by a land and water company. Thankfully Theodore Roosevelt and a few wealthy environmentalists prevented that from happening around the turn of the last century by buying up the land and donating it to the federal government to circumvent their sh*tty a** plans. For that we can all be thankful.
The drive to and from Muir Woods is incredibly scenic, so even the drive from the park to our next destination felt like a bit of an adventure. Northern California in general is one of the most scenic parts of America. I never grew tired of the awesome mountains with perfectly formed rows of trees. Every mountain looked like a ski resort in the summer with clumps of trees and empty trails between them from top to bottom but everything was created naturally for reasons that seem totally nonsensical.
We did it a few times on this trip but there's nothing cooler than driving towards San Francisco on 101 on a winding road on the base of those mountains and hills and then rounding a curve to reveal the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. Each time we took that drive it felt like the first. It's a really cool visual, and when you approach from the north it's really an awesome welcome to the city.
Our final stop in San Francisco was more of the tourist trap type, but it's still a place that I really enjoy. Pier 39 has all of the usual tourist trap suspects and tons of souvenir shopping and restaurants but we didn't mind since we needed to load up on souvenirs anyway. There is one thing that really sets the pier apart from similar places in other cities though. I give you, the Piece de resistance...
Anyone who's been reading through this thread for awhile knows that I absolutely LOVE sea lions so Pier 39 is right up my alley. Despite the fact that the marina was pretty much overtaken by sea lions around 1989 and most of the boaters were pissed, the city decided to embrace it as a tourist destination and that decision seems to have been a good one. They've become a San Francisco icon, and people flock to the pier to see them. I can't say I blame them, Sea Lions are the greatest.
We shot a live video from the pier for anyone that needs their sea lion fix...
We stood around watching sea lions for awhile, but unfortunately our time in California started to run short so we walked around grabbing some last minute souvenirs and then decided to grab lunch at a Japanese place on the end of the pier before heading back to the airport.
While it was a really short trip, we had an absolute blast. With our late night Denver connection and overnight flight to Newark we were certainly feeling it at 5am when we had to make a 2 hour drive home on no sleep and then an almost immediate 30 minute drive to our 9-5 jobs after a quick "night's sleep" of an hour or so. It was borderline insane, but more than worth it. It was also good practice for our upcoming Texas trip where we'd have absolutely no sleep and a much further drive from the airport. That report is on the way, and don't worry... there won't be any tree reports from that weekend. There will be more sea lions though...